A Blog Portal That Is Up To No Good

mama gogo, indiedays, bella blogit

Yesterday I wrote about the Finnish blog portal Bella-blogit, whose ethics and business model leaves a lot to be desired. Apparently this has been their modus operandi for a quite some time as I found out from the blog Mami GoGo. As per usual, I’m translating the story (very poorly) and I think it’s worth the read. The Finnish readers can go and have a look at the original write up.

When I was originally asked to join Bella, which by then had been operating for 6 months, I was very pleased and flattered. I made new friends and we had very good group of people there, at least we new ones did. Back then I didn’t wonder why one of the original team members of Bella had just upped and left, without any explanations whatsoever. Later, after I’ve seen how things were ran, I wasn’t surprised. I also was told, that there had been trouble with some of the older bloggers and it was because “they weren’t easy to work with”. Even later I realized that the things were other way around. Either case, I was enjoying blogging and our blogs grew and developed, and some of us bloggers became very professional with it.

At the same time Bella-blogit grew and became more known. One of the original bloggers began doing the ad sales. That’s when everything changed. The good atmosphere disappeared.  Everything we had agreed to in writing and verbally, were changed with one announcement. Because the portal was small, and the financial compensation wasn’t huge, at least for me it wasn’t, I made most of my income with the blog co-operations I arranged myself. Bella hadn’t brought any campaigns for me within the first year. We had to cut contact with our long-term and important partners. I understand the point that when the campaigns come via business sales, they are a part of bigger picture and therefore the financial perks are also bigger. In long-term it is more beneficial for bloggers, when companies realize they can’t buy visibility with just few products. Well, that’s all about for that now. But with Bella, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. We weren’t notified professionally but with one, very abrupt e-mail. For six months, all my contact with the business sales were more or less aggressive towards me. Me and my blogger friend Riikka were publicly called on Facebook greedy and selfish materialistic shits. By a person we thought was our friend. The CEO of Bella didn’t do anything about this even though I asked her repeatedly. She also treated Riikka very coldly, I got some lukewarm placating. Riikka gave her notice, I wanted to give them second chance. I was offered a raise and even a part in a new TV-series Bastella Media was going to start producing. Neither one materialized. It didn’t take me long to realize, the promises was Bella’s attempt to keep me on leash, I was one of the most read blogs on Bella. We didn’t receive any apologies either, even though at this point I had been receiving more than a fair share of shit from them. I also was very upset from how they had treated my friend.

Spring and summer came and went, and nothing changed. Toxic language, minimizing, bad communication, accusations of poorly made blog posts, calling me names to clients, yelling on the phone, putting down my self-esteem…There was a point, when my hands shook every time I had to open my e-mail. I was so afraid of what I was going to have to read next. Blogging, which used to be my passion and source of joy, became a revolting chore because of them. People, who were supposed to support me and work with us. I still can’t understand why we were treated this way. What was the point of making our blogging harder and treat us so badly? I can’t understand how an adult human being can treat another one such way. And even harder is to understand, how year after year things continue the same. Not for all of them but for some.

Around the same time, another blogging friend of mine, Essi, decided to stop blogging completely. Her contract was broken for many parts. For example, she should have been receiving help to transfer her blog, but she still hasn’t received her files. All the texts and images have disappeared.

I had written and re-written my notice letter for many times over, when finally the day came when I couldn’t do it anymore. I was afraid, what was going to happen after I gave my notice but in the end, I just had to bite the bullet. It was awful. I got ignored completely. I was left out from the campaigns, my posts were no longer pulled on the front page of Bella nor on Facebook. CEO went and changed the password to my personal e-mail so I couldn’t access it. Yes, at this point I found out she had had access to it for two years…My phone calls and e-mails were left unanswered. But later I received a screaming phone call where I was threatened with lawyers and contract breaks and whatnot. For no reason. You can believe me I was spent after being abused for months. After I switched blogs, all my blog pictures were gone. They had been removed from Bella’s server, against the contract, and they had disappeared permanently. Luckily the Indiedays’ IT-guy had experience with blog transfers and he had coded a back up earlier and could bring them in couple of hours. Phew. But what if I had moved to blog independently? I wouldn’t have any of the pictures anymore. One of my last posts on Bella describe my feelings and they weren’t happy.

Most insane thing to see is how everything fell apart. All the nice things became meaningless, when the true side of those people was revealed. I found out that the people, who used to work with them, had to go through similar things. Things got so bad that they are still afraid to talk about them. “I know what kind of web sleuths they have in there and how much energy they use on sabotaging other people. That’s why I haven’t spoken about this publicly”, I was told by someone. “Every time a new blogger joins them, I want to scream don’t do it, it’s a trap!”, says another. There was an explanation why this ex-friend of mine had no long-term friends. All the bridges were burned. I should have know from the way she spoke about other people. But I wanted to believe the best.

It’s unbelievable how unprofessionally everything was handled. Now that I’ve heard the latest scandal a la Shitty Thrift Store Finds, it’s clear they are still unprofessional. Contractual issues are contractual issues, and business is business, but where are the courtesy and manners?

The latest scandal puts down all the portals. The actions of one, or two people shouldn’t ruin the reputation of other portals. Me and many others find that being part of the portal is for the best. I like having a team of people behind me for help and support. Even if it is in the middle of the night. I never would be able to pull of campaigns of this magnitude or even make a living of this by myself. There isn’t enough hours in the day for it. What about all the technical stuff! Support, help and tips from my colleagues too! It’s very important to know there are others in the same boat. Blogging can get lonely.

I don’t mean to put anyone down with this post. Me and many others were wronged, and I don’t think it’s right to be silent about this anymore – especially now, when it’s clear they’ve been continuing doing this. I hope this helps others in the same situation and in the best case scenario, stops this kind of thing happening completely. I know a lot of people on Bella and I wish them all the best. This probably doesn’t feel too good for them and I hope you understand my reasons to write about this and won’t take it personally. I know that many of you have a really good thing going on at Bella. I’m not encouraging people to join barricades in boycotting Bella. The bloggers and the staff are not responsible for the actions of these two people. The purpose of this text is to lift the weight of my shoulders and to tell my story. As well as defend blog portals. If they work well, there’s no better place to blog at :-)

Wow. I don’t know what to say. I only have a note about the portal wide campaigns. Sure, they probably are lucrative but as a reader, they’ve become embarrassing. The most recent example was a Lidl-meat campaign. I don’t remember in which portal it was but it was weird seeing write-ups how Lidl-meat is the most delicious and how they always buy Lidl-meat but at the same they never before once had a blog post about Lidl nor even about eating meat. Like I said, embarrassing. It’s a hard balance, making money and trying to stay original and personal. Most campaigns these days fail to do so.

-Thrifty Finn-



A Case for Independent Blogging…

bella blogit, paskat kirppislöydöt

This morning, as per usual, I started my morning by browsing Twitter to see, if there’s something interesting. Well, it turns out, I only didn’t find something interesting but very infuriating and I think you all, as bloggers have interest in this story.

Few years ago, a woman started a blog on blogspot.com called Paskat Kirppislöydöt, which means Shitty Thrift Store Finds. It became very successful and even has over 26 000 FB-likes. Naturally, this kind of success, which is huge in Finland, attracted some blog-portals. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have than kind traffic. It’s moneys! But this is what happened. It’s a good warning story for every blogger out there, who wants to become professional. I’m translating (again, poorly) from the original blog post:

My last blog post was almost a month ago and in general, blogging has become a chore, or quite frankly, I just haven’t been wanting to do it. I’m finally going to tell you the real reason why. I don’t know the consequences of it but I think this kind of cases always should be brought to light, and not just let the blog portals, or others, to do whatever they want to other people.

Let’s start from the beginning…This is my personal blog, which is always been an independent one but I’ve been writing for years for the most popular thrift store blog in Finland. I was already writing it, when it was early and wasn’t updated that often yet, and when there were few other writers and it was an independent blog. In 2013 blog was moved under a portal and the amount of writers was reduced to three. The original owner of the blog left completely and it was me and three other girls, who originally were writing anonymously, who were left running the whole thing. We updated the blog according to the set timetable, ran the Facebook-page, where we managed to gather over 26 000 likes.

I didn’t attend the first meeting with the owners of the portals, but we were promised, verbally, whole bunch of things, such as financial rewards for which there was a set scale. We were promised an online access to a real time data, where we could follow how much we’d earn. We never got the access, even though we asked for them repeatedly. We kept getting the runaround of “oh, we can’t get them to work”, although mysteriously they COULD tell how much traffic our traffic was increasing. Apparently the most of all the blogs in the portal. The promised increased rewards never materialised and our messages were never answered the first time we asked for them and in the end they were promised to be paid later. Stupidly, we believed this and continued running the blog.

I wrote the blog with the same nic I use here, and my identity has never been a secret. I gave  numerous interviews to various medias on my own time, and only one gaining from this, was the portal. Of course article’s on YLE (The Finnish Broadcasting Company) and mentions on radio bring clicks and readers for the blog, which is what a portal wants. Slowly and surely I became more and more frustrated at the situation and me and the two other girls tried to reach the management at the portal. This time I suggested a face to face meeting, as I thought they’d be forced to listen to us. An e-mail is too easy to ignore. Finally we met them, me personally for the first time. The meeting went nicely and we managed to present our case professionally and again, we were promised a lot of things. The salary thing was promised to be answered by the end of the week. Do I even have to say that it wasn’t? I had to send them numerous e-mails and when I finally got an answer, it was entirely something else.

My expectations for the salary weren’t high but since the meeting went so well, and we didn’t demand the impossible, only what we were promised, the end result was a slap in the face. They fired us. I was upset. I asked my colleagues and they confirmed receiving the same e-mail.  All of us writers were given a month’s notice and they announced they were going to continue “update the blog in-house”. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I immediately dug up my contract and it clearly stated that blog only owned the rights to the name and the address but the content was  ours to keep. Thus the portal could continue with the blog, but we could keep all of its materail

We decided to act. We removed the portal employee’s from our FB-page, which was our main channel to reach our readers and which we had been running for years. At the same time, we changed the password to our e-mail, where the readers have been sending their pictures we’ve been publishing. They also send a lot of images to Facebook. I assumed I had the right ot do so, because I didn’t think the portal owned the rights to them as it wasn’t stated in the contract.

It didn’t take long but I received a message from another one of the writers. The portal management had called and YELLED, that the admin-rights have to be returned to them. Apparently they could see, who had done the changes (read: me) and if I didn’t do the changes within an hour, they would take an action against the other person. (At this point I have to comment that threatening a third party for second party’s actions is insane and proves how little legal rights they actually have, but it gets worse…) At the same time I noticed that our usernames for the blog were cancelled. We couldn’t access a blog, that we thought was ours and where we owned the content, this was even stated in the contract. I was even more upset. I urged all the involved to calm down and promised to send an e-mail about it. I drafted the text and had several people to read it to make sure it’s professional. I stated my feelings and pointed out that their behaviour was not called for. Because the management was tormenting my colleagues, people I consider my friends, by yelling at them because of the changes I made, I didn’t see any other option than returning the admin rights (my comment again…Didn’t see any other options? Yes, there was/is. Contacting a lawyer), even though there was no mention of the Facebook-page in the contract. I wrote, that I’m doing it under an condition that we wouldn’t be kicked out of the blog until the contract actually ends, which would be the May 1st, 2015. It was a huge mistake. I never got a response but I did get a call from my upset colleague that she received another threatening phone call from the portal and they refuse to hang up until I return the rights. (Again my comment…How stupid is the colleague? She can hang up too and block the number). I asked her to give a message to the portal, that they should respond to my message and negotiate this like an adult. This wasn’t possible as “they don’t respond to blackmailing”. (My comment: pots and kettles, people, pots and kettles…) So now I’M the blackmailer, because I wanted to follow the contract and not them, who demanded the FB-admin rights within an hour or I “would face grave consequences”. I was never told what these consequences are, but I got scared when an adult starts threatening and behaving aggressively.

And I wasn’t the only one. Our third writer wanted to drop out very early in the case. I wished we could have stuck together as us three would have a better chance against them and we could demand our rights, but I can’t really blame her for her decision. I understand how scared you get, when someone, who is in management, threatens you with a legal action. I wish I could give up so easily as it would make my life much easier. I’ve had many sleepless nights because of this and my stress-levels are through the roof.

We were promised an access to the blog, if I returned the FB-admin rights. I did this under extreme pressure but our access was never returned. Me and the other writer asked for them and reminded about our one month notice but I never received an answer to my e-mails. It was quite clear that the management didn’t want to provide any evidence to us of what had happened, so they could deny everything should the need arise. All the aggressiveness happened over the phone.

When my numerous contact attempts were ignored, I resigned just to wait for my final salary. I didn’t want to say anything until I had received all the money I was owed. In the meanwhile, the dust settled until I got an e-mail from the “helpdesk”, basically anonymously from the portal. I was accused of something I hadn’t done and they demanded me to rectify it. I answered and explained that I hadn’t done it and therefore couldn’t fix it. I also mentioned that my username hadn’t been activated so I couldn’t access my material for which I have the copyright. I asked a transfer file for my material. I received an answer that I have rights to the text but not for the images. It doesn’t say so in the contract but they e-mailed me that if I used the images elsewhere I would be guilty of a crime. Then I got blamed for blackmail again and was told they wouldn’t pay me my leftover salary, if I didn’t fix the earlier mentioned thing, which I hadn’t done. Finally they send me a transfer file of my texts without any of the images (including the ones I’ve taken). The file also missed entire posts. I can’t do anything with this file (my comment…Yes you do. This is evidence of their wrong doing).

As of 1st of May, the blog was completely out of my hands. Still on the 2nd of May, there was content created by me, as seen in the screenshot (my comment: not posting the image). I found tons of my posts on the blog and they had just removed my initials from the. The post above is still there, again only without my signature. There are posts by the other writers too, they even left the Best Wishes in the end of the posts, the signatures missing. This isn’t how copyright works but portal doesn’t care and the readers won’t notice.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if my text makes even one blogger to think carefully about joining a blog portal, or at least to read the contract very carefully, this matters. What happened is very much against my moral values and although it’s easier to keep one’s head down and let other people all over you, I value myself more if I fight. I’m sure nothing good comes out of this for me and I’m also sure there will be even more threats, but few more won’t make any difference. It kills me that the site I built for years, was taken from me and the portal is now making the profit of it. It did so for years but at least I was financially compensated, even if it wasn’t very much.

My conscience is clear, because for the entire this time I’ve been professional. Though I do regret a part in the one e-mail I sent them

“Hello XXXXX,

You know good an well, why I’m messaging you, although we haven’t been in contact. Your threats were received, thank you very much. I wish, that you understand that your behaviour is uncalled for and very unprofessional. Which is why I won’t write anymore about that.

Now to the matter at hand. If the only way to access to our blog (and for which we hold the copyright) is to give you the admin rights to our FB-page, this doesn’t leave much choice, does it. I will only do this under the condition that instead of kicking us out of the blog, we stay there till the contract runs out, which is the 1st of May.


Emma-Kaisa Kuusisto.”

Although I had several people to read this to make sure it’s professional, the management took it as a blackmail (my comment: it isn’t) and my colleagues paid for it by having to listen their yelling. This wasn’t my intention. I told this to the “helpdesk” too. I tried to handle this as an adult but it became impossible because of the actions of the portal.

Maybe someday I’ll start another thrift store themed blog as it is one of my passions and a very important hobby. As of this moment I don’t have any motivation for it. I will continue writing my personal blog as this opening up has given me new fuel to write.

I’d like to remind that the two other writers don’t have anything to do with this blogpost.

So here it is. Personally I think that if you become successful enough to attract a blog portal to take an interest in you, you are strong enough brand to get advertising yourself. Readers come to you because of YOUR TALENT! Why would you voluntarily give up a slice of that to a third party that hadn’t invested a cent in developing your content? In this case the writers should have done research on the company and have a lawyer check out the contract. You never have to sign the first version. Remember, THEY are the ones who want you and THEY are the ones, who have to present to you, why they’d be better for you. They are the ones, who need YOU, not the other way around. I hope Emma-Kaisa gets a lawyer as I don’t think this will go to a court.

What are your thoughts? Have you been successful enough to get a portal to take interest in you? How did it go?

-Thrifty Finn-

P.S. The owner of the portal is a company called Bastella Media Oy. To get the names of the owners behind that, I’d have to buy access to the Finland’s Company Database. Which I’m not too keen to do yet. We’ll see if we get any answers from them today. Fingers crossed.


Commentary on Hyéres Fashion Festival

hyéres fashion festival 2015, Karl Lagerfeld, Caroline Princess of Monaco

Karl Lagerfeld and Princess of Monaco, Caroline. Via hs.fi

Finnish fashion scene (at least according to Helsingin Sanomat) has been buzzing.  We had four people, three collections in the finale of Hyéres Fashion Festival 2015. Super! I knew that they were in the finale but hadn’t seen the images of the collections until today in the aforementioned/linked Helsingin Sanomat article. The writer, Sami Sykkö, wrote rather brilliantly about the festival and gave commentary about Finnish fashion (hah) industry and the challenges it is facing (all the challenges, BTW, brought on by the industry itself).

Anyhoo, back to the finale. I can understand why these collections made it to the final round. The clothes were colourful and the designers had used tons of different techniques. Finnish fashion design used to be about screenprinted A-line skirts and T-shirts, mainly because designers over here don’t have access to good fabric stores and these collections are breaking the stereotype of Finnish/Scandinavian design:

However herein lies the problem. It’s great that fashion students have learned layering and pattern mixing. Moving away from the one dimensionality. These looks are very different what designers in Finland are offering right now, which is a good thing BUT what they have forgotten that we don’t live in a bubble, there’s a whole industry out there. An industry, that in the same time is about looking for a new thing and offering consumers what they want now. And these collections are not now. They are not fresh. Fresh in Finland, yes, but this Ukrainian Ann Demeulemeester-look is not current. It’s good for a designer to have their own vision but they should be using that vision to interpret the culture and times people are living now. If you look at the winning collection by Annelie Schubert:

Annelie Schubert, winner of Hyéres 2015, finalist

via arcstreet.com

You can see the collection is sophisticated. There are layers, there are textures but they are not fighting with each other. The silhouette is current and the overall vibe is a nod to 90s Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. And what is the very decade every design disciple is drawing from as inspiration?

Hyéres shortlisted finalists 2015, arc street

via Luxury Touch

Anyway, I’m happy that there were so many Finnish finalists. Finnish fashion industry has a long way to go still but at least designers are not to be faulted with the slow development. I DO have one beef though…The way Sami Sykkö reported this, it gave an impression that our three finalists were selected because they were Finnish. It makes mockery of the entire industry and the history of art & design. And art & design do not have a nationality. Sure, the nationality of the designers might explain/influence the form but it’s not the end all and be all. Although this is not only Sami Sykkö’s sin. It can be seen in any kind of reporting about Finnish people making it out there. Not ever they write that person is making it because he or she is good at what she does. No, they are always good because they are Finnish.

Le sigh.

-Thrifty Finn-

P.S. Additional reading on Hyéres here: arcstreet.comvillanoailles-hyeres.com, style.com

It’s That Time of the Year Again…

eurovision 2015, austria, conchita

Last night I watched the final of Melodifestivalen, Swedish Eurovision Song Contest. As per usual their show was muy fantastic. They even had Conchita performing in the opening spectacle.

(I’m writing this muy jealous, because even though Finland is getting better at putting together a show, it’s still way too behind when it comes to style and showmanship. Dammit, I’m a loyal Eurovision-fan, I must be rewarded accordingly with a proper show!)

Anyhoo…I decided to take a peek at the Eurovision-website to see what kind of songs have gotten through so far. In my personal opinion, way too many slow songs but it bodes well for our punk song. (But I do like the fact that there a tons of female performers this year.) I don’t have favourites yet but I’m giving these guys another chance to impress me: Serbia, Slovenia, Malta, Belgium, Georgia (who is totally channeling Ruslana), Belarus, Germany and Sweden.

Have you checked out any of the songs yet? Last night I was tipped on Twitter about this guy, who unfortunately didn’t make it to the final of Melodifestivalen. I think we lost something here:

-Thrifty Finn-



Crafty Exhaustion

Valentine’s Day was a month ago. I had this super-fantastic idea to make cards for everyone I know. Well, not everyone I know. For the people I know and care about at least on some level.

I’m a joy to be with.

Anyway, guess what happened? I managed to make cards for even less than half of my list, sent only half of those and I’ve been crafty burnt out ever since. Good times.

-Thrifty Finn-

P.S. It was not all wasted effort. At least I came up with the way to use my Instagram-photos in crafting.